The annual Global Forum for Food and Agriculture is currently underway in Berlin and those attending are grappling with a formidable challenge: finding ways to insure food security around the world as population surges by nearly 30 percent over the next three decades.
As the forum organizers note, the key to overcoming hunger at global level is the development of a productive, adaptable and resilient agriculture sector based on diversity, sustainability and productivity. But it’s also recognized that in many places, efforts to establish efficient structures in agriculture face major challenges. They include increasing competition for scarce natural resources, the consequences of climate change and the loss of biodiversity and soil fertility.
Among those asked to deliver a keynote address at the forum is A.G. Kawamura, a member of the 25x’25 Executive Committee and co-chair of Solutions from the Land (SFL), an outgrowth of 25x’25 that brings together a broad range of stakeholders to explore the development of integrated sustainable solutions to the challenges of climate change, food security, economic development, and biodiversity conservation.
Kawamura, an Orange County specialty crop grower and a former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is passionate about the issue, calling to task governments and institutions that recognize the coming surge in demand for food, yet fail to adopt the strong policies that assure agricultural viability and adequate resources. He recognizes and champions the knowledge that the sustainable development and production of renewable fuels from energy crops and low-input, low-carbon biomass can serve efforts to feed a growing population as well.
Kawamura will share the Solutions from the Land vision, in which, by 2050, agricultural systems and forests can be simultaneously managed to satisfy domestic and global demand for safe, abundant and affordable food, feed, fiber and fuel. These systems will support economic growth and sustainable development, all while reducing hunger and malnutrition. They will also improve soil, water and air quality; enhance biodiversity; ensure ecosystem health, including preserving habitats; and deliver mitigation and adaptation solutions to mounting global climate challenges.
But his warnings to world agriculture and environmental leaders in Berlin this week are the same as the ones he and other SFL members have shared with farmers and policy makers here in the United States for the past two years: the means must be found to overcome land management challenges that impede efforts to sustainably satisfy the surging demand for food.
Kawamura cites the conflicting policies and inadequate rewards that hamper maximum development of the ecosystem services – carbon sequestration, cleaner air and water, among others ‑ that farm operations can provide. He points to the decline in investments in research and innovation that must be reversed if global leaders intend to fully address the bigger threat of a changing climate. And he points out that risk management, market volatility and the multiple demands imposed on producers ultimately pose major concerns for those seeking a sustainable food system.
Global leaders will hear of the need to implement landscape‐scale solutions and partnerships, and to harmonize policy frameworks. Stewardship of ecosystem services must be rewarded. Research must be coordinated and re-energized. And information networks that can guide producers and policy makers on the path forward must be transformed and modernized.
To reach the SFL vision, there is the short-term obligation for those in agriculture around the world to better understand each other and determine not only where they’ve been, but more importantly, where they want to go. SFL promotes the integration and adoption of the best solutions that can be reached through a strategic alignment of stakeholders.
In the long term, appropriate policies, investments, research and development, markets and measurement tools need to be in place to ensure that resources are optimized.
The bottom line: World agricultural and food leaders need a strategy that visualizes abundance, not a plan that embraces scarcity.